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CSIRO Launches Roadmap for Smooth Transition to Renewables

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, released a Roadmap highlighting the research required to continue Australia’s transition to a more secure and affordable electricity system, showing that innovation can drive the integration of renewables.

The Roadmap was created via a partnership with Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and draws on input from renowned Australian and international system operators and research agencies from the Global Power System Transformation (G-PST) Consortium.

The Consortium contextualised key research questions to fit Australian background, to support Australia’s energy transition in the long-term interests of consumers. The research areas they identified to address the challenge of accelerated change faced by Australia’s National Electricity Market and Wholesale Electricity Market. Australia’s electricity systems face several key challenges, including ageing infrastructure, growing intricacies, and investment needs in transmission and distribution.

The Roadmap outlines the outcomes of nine individual research plans, including their necessity in Australia’s energy transition journey, the type of research that must be prioritised, and how the research could form individual programs.

The key research topics are:

  • Inverter design
  • Stability tools and methods
  • Control room of the future
  • Planning
  • Restoration and Black Start
  • Services
  • Architecture (Australian-specific)
  • Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) (Australian-specific)
  • DERs and Stability (Australian-specific)

CSIRO’s Energy Systems Research Director stated the Roadmap could help forge a clear pathway to the integration of low emissions electricity. He noted that across the energy system we are seeing a significant increase in renewable-generated electricity, combined with an increase in electricity requirements such as in transport, buildings, manufacturing, and mining.

The cost of renewable energy is no longer the challenge – integrating renewable energy securely and efficiently into Australia’s electricity systems, and ensuring it has the right operational tools and capabilities in place, is what need to be solved.

Australia has some of the world’s highest levels of rooftop solar, which means this integration challenge extends throughout our electricity system – from the largest generators through to efficiently integrating ‘distributed energy resources’ (such as solar and electric vehicles) into our homes and businesses.

The Roadmap highlights areas that aim to ensure ongoing energy security and reliability for Australian consumers, and efficient and effective investment in infrastructure. The role of research throughout this transition is vitally important and Australia has the opportunity to lead the charge. After the industry consultation is completed, CSIRO plans to use Roadmap priority areas to develop technological aids for further innovation while continuing to remain adaptable to inevitable change in the furture.

The AEMO Executive General Manager Operations noted that the research program targeted the increasing complexity facing power system operators with the accelerated move to inverter-based variable renewable generation.

Australia is investing in renewable energy at a faster rate per capita than any other country. As Australia’s energy market operator, the country has seen average renewable energy contribution increase to approximately 40 per cent of total or underlying demand, along with five-minute interval peaks above 60%. In addition, consumer rooftop solar PV is pushing grid-scale generation out of the market under certain day-time conditions, setting minimum operational demand records across the country.

The pace and scale of this transition are extraordinary. It demands new approaches to power system operations including tools, technologies, processes and platforms, which complement network planning, and market and regulatory reforms.

AEMO’s role is to design and operate a sustainable energy system that provides safe, reliable and affordable energy today, and to enable the energy transition to benefit every Australian. The CSIRO G-PST Research Roadmap, together with the AEMO Engineering Framework and upcoming Operations Technology Roadmap, is where the rubber hits the road in terms of providing a guide for government, industry and academia to work together to deliver a major step in achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 – engineering net-zero energy systems.

Australia requires prompt, interdisciplinary competencies and partnerships to identify and resolve the engineering and system issues involved in decarbonising Australia’s power systems. This is how the country will keep the lights on for consumers while enabling an orderly transition to a safe, reliable and affordable net-zero-energy future. Through the Roadmap, G-PST consortium is working to develop a meaningful and holistic solution to Australia’s energy transition. In the near future, CSIRO wil begin looking for input for phase 2 of this work.

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